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St. Petersburg accommodation and some other questions

St. Petersburg accommodation and some other questions

Old Apr 23rd, 2001, 04:02 AM
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St. Petersburg accommodation and some other questions

After reading many posts on this board I am more eager than ever about our trip to St. Petersburg. We are independent travelers and now in the begining phase of planning our trip.
What hotels would you recommend within walking distance to the most important places to visit?
Do we really need a guide? I speak some Russian.
How many days would you recommend for St. Petersburg and other places that can be reach on a day-trip?
We are thinking about visiting Poland before going to St. Petersburg. Anyone combined those two places? How did you get from one to another? Plane, train or automobile?
The best way to get there from East Coast? I checked prices for June and they are extremely high.
Anyone went there during White Nights festival?
Thanks for your help
Old Apr 23rd, 2001, 04:38 AM
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Gina - Mu husband and I were in St. Petersburg in June 1997 (can't believe it has already been 4 years!). You are going to love it! We stayed at the Grand Hotel Europe. I don't know what your budget is, but the hotel does not come cheap. It was a splurge for my husband and I, but we were paranoid about the city (Russian mafia was very active at the time.) The hotel was worth every penny, however. The rooms were spacious and beautifully decorated, huge marble bathrooms, etc. In an effort to save money, we did not eat breakfast at the hotel. We found a small grocery store just a block or two from the hotel and would get breakfast foods from there instead. The hotel has a number of restaurants, some quite pricey; others fairly reasonably priced. We ate there several times. In 1997, there were not very many restaurant choices in the vicinity. Perhaps the situation has improved some. Whatever you do, do not drink the water. There is some type of bacteria in St. P's water supply that the locals have become immune to, but visitors have not. This includes not brushing your teeth with the hotel water. I kept a big bottle of bottled water in the bathroom for this purpose. The hotel is ideally located. Right in front of the Russian Musuem, just down the street from the Hermitage, St. Isaac's cathedral, etc. We do not speak any Russian, so we hired a guide for our entire stay. He was really more of a car and driver than a knowledgeable tour guide, but we loved interacting with a local. For most of the sites, you probably don't need a guide, especially if you can speak some Russian. We found the guide most helpful for getting us around to different places. We went to several different palaces arond the city (Peterhof - an absolute must - puts Versailles to shame, Pavlosk, Catherine Palace, Sliding Hill, etc.) Don't know how we would have gotten to some of these places without a car, so it was worth it. We were there just at the start of the white nights (about a week before the official activities began), but it was already amazing. It stayed light well past midnight. We would walk around the City after dinner every night (very safe, tons of people out and about)and it was gorgeous. Can't offer any advice about Poland. We arrived in St. P from Moscow, took the midnight train. If time permits, Moscow is fantastic! We flew to London on British Air and then on to Moscow. Return flight was from St. P to London and then an overnight in London before returning to the states. We were fortunate enough to have frequent flier miles, so I can't comment on the price of tickets. If you would like more specifics, post again. I usually check the boards throughout the day. Have fun!
Old Apr 23rd, 2001, 06:38 AM
Marc David Miller
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I am going for my third trip to Petersburg in June, also for the White Nights Festival. You can see the schedule at


I would use a guide at least for 1/2 a day for orientation purposes.

As for hotels, try


The best (and priciest) are the Sheraton Nevsky Palace, the Grand Hotel Europa, and the Astoria/Angletarre. Cheaper hotels are a distance from the tourist areas, but the Sovietskya, Pulkovksya are not that far.

As for Poland/Petersburg, I would fly as the train goes through Belarus (for which you will need a transit visa). Aeroflot is probably the cheapest from NY, and yes, the prices are about double those of low season.

If you want to go in June, BOOK AS SOON AS YOU CAN!
Old Apr 23rd, 2001, 04:11 PM
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I am also going to St. Pete's in late
May or June. Is the White Nights Festival really something to be seen? Our plans are not set in stone, yet, and would appreciate your input.
Old Apr 23rd, 2001, 05:49 PM
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A young American ex-pat living in St. Petersburg has created a very good new website with loads of info.

It's http://www.bravosolutions.com/
Old Apr 24th, 2001, 12:23 AM
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Ah Piter! Cold, stubborn, aloof, intractable, beautiful, magnificent Piter! Yes, go during the White Nights if you can. Poland will require a special double entry visa, but it can be done. The Grand Europe is beautiful, and close, if you can do it. Ride the metro at least once, talk to the babushkas, light a candle in an Orthodox church (don't forget a headcovering) eat ice cream on Nevsky Prospect or get your portrait painted) and have Champagne (or at least a Baltika) on the Neva embankment. At least a week, to do it justice, but 3-4 or four days at a minimum. A guide can be helpful, if you can find a good one, and very reasonble. Do Svidanya!
Old Apr 24th, 2001, 09:18 AM
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Thank you all for your quick responses and suggestions.
Fellowtrveller: Do you remember how much did you pay at the Grand Hotel Europe? I checked and in June they charging US $360. I don't think we want to pay more than $250 but we do want to stay at that area. Any suggestions?
Peterhof is on our list. How long did you stay there? Sould we plan all day trip?
How many days did you stay in St. Petersburgh?
What is so special about Moscow?

Mark David: Thank you for the website. I found there some useful information but I did not find this site too organized. Sorry. We are planning this trip in June 2002. Yes, I agree with you about flying from Warsaw instaed of taking a train.

Jen: I heard that White Nights Festival shouldn't be missed if you are planning to be there in June. I too need more details.

J: Thanks for great suggestions. One week or 10 days sounds just right for us. How to find a good guide? There are two guides (Dimitri and Alexei) who are pushing their services on this forum. How would I know if they are reliable? Besides I promised myself long ago to not support sevices of those who disreagard Fodor's policy of no advertising here.
Thanks again

Libbie: thanks for the address. I hope there will be more information especially regarding accommodation

Another three questions:
Is there a limit how many rolls of films you are allowed to bring?
Any special places not be missed when taking phots? What was your the best shot in St. Petersburg?
Old Apr 24th, 2001, 12:54 PM
Marc David Miller
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Write to me privately if you need more details on the White Nights Festival.
Old Apr 24th, 2001, 06:25 PM
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Actually, St Petersburg is celebrating its 300 year aniversary in 2003, there is a foundation of some sort in Washington, maybe you can contact them. A travel agent or hotel can probably help with a guide, ask for a Uni student, they should have licenses. Moscow has an all together different flavor, more like a big city, more vibrant, with none of St Petersburg's melancholy beauty. Photo ops are eveywhere, you will see. The favorite I suppose is the Alexandr Column on Palace Square. Don't miss Pavlovsk, by the way, I am sure you will see all the others.
Old Apr 24th, 2001, 08:03 PM
Marc David Miller
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The foundation that J mentioned is at

Old Apr 25th, 2001, 03:25 AM
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We are going to be t
Old Apr 25th, 2001, 04:05 AM
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Gina: I spent 2 weeks in St. Petersburg last September. Rented an apartment about 2 blocks from Nevsky Palace Hotel....about a 25 minute walk to the Hermitage and two minutes off Nevsky Prospeckt. $65 US per night and the apartment was wonderful. I have kept in touch with the rental agent and if you want more info, get in touch with me. I will forward you her web site where you can see all photos of the apartments she has to rent. The only way to go to beat high hotel rates.
Old Apr 25th, 2001, 05:19 AM
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Gina - I can't recall what we paid at the Grand Hotel Europe, but the rate you received does not seem out of line from what I recall. It all comes down to what you are willing/able to splurge on. As I mentioned (I think) we didn't have to pay for airfare because we used FF miles, so we had extra money for hotels. I can't really offer any suggestions for other hotels as we never really looked into other places. All I can say is the hotel is worth the price.

Plan on spending at least 1/2 day, if not more at Peterhof. You will want to tour the palace itself, and if the weather is nice, you will definitely want to spend several hours walking around the grounds. Peterhof is famous for its fountains. I believe that they are turned on as of June 1, so they should be on when you are there. Unlike Versailles, the fountains at Peterhof are om all day, every day. They are incredible to say the least, particularly the Grand Cascade. (That was a great photo op, by the way.)

As I recall, we were in St. P for a total of 4 days. Got to see and do a lot of things, but would have loved to have had an extra day or two. If you have the time, I recommend 2 trips to the Hermitage. Once is not enough, and is quite frankly overwhelming. Not only do you have the incredible paintings (one room full of 20+ Rembrandts), but the palace itself is gorgeous to look at.

With respect to Moscow, I have to say I am somewhat unbiased. I was a Russian history major in college and had been dying to go to Moscow. It exceeded my expectations. It is much more Russian than St. P, which is very European in look and feel. The cathedrals around Moscow were fabulous, the Kremlin unbelievable, and there is just something about standing in Red Square for the first time and seeing Lenin's tomb. My husband and I absolutely loved Moscow. Great musuems also, and the subway is a must see and do.

Hope this info helps.
Old Apr 25th, 2001, 07:42 AM
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Do NOT, NOT, NOT miss Moscow. We were in Moscow & St. Pet. last Oct., and were absolutely in AWE when we were standing in Red Square. We LOVED Moscow, and actually found it to be much better maintained than St. Pete.

Perhaps it's just because that in the US, the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral are the two images that spring to mind when people mention Russia, but for us, standing in Red Square, with Lenin's tomb, St. Basil's, and the Kremlin all in view was one of the most MOVING travel moments we've ever had - right up there with the Eiffel Tower, the Parthenon, and the Great Wall.

There are also fabulous art museums, a wonderful revolutionary museum (with a GREAT gift shop), and the most WONDERFUL antique and souvenier market at Ismailovsky.
Old Apr 25th, 2001, 09:02 AM
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Couple of suggestions. For Air tickets check some Russian Travel agencies ie http://www.glavs.com/
(this one is located in NYC Russian Brighton Beach) which may offer better discounts. You also may choose to travel thru Poland First (stop over in Poland) this way you do not need double re-entry visa and there are no White Nights in Poland - so tickets maybe end up cheaper - for tickets to Poland check Polish Agency ie: http://www.jantary.com/index.shtml
or www.lot.com
But I suggest 2 seperate trips - 1 to Poland 1 to Russia St.Pete and maybe Moscow?...
As for hotels check into private rooms - they offer better value for the buck.
Old Apr 25th, 2001, 05:37 PM
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For Jody. Have a great trip
Old Apr 26th, 2001, 05:36 AM
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Thank you all again!
It is so much fun planning this trip because of people like you.

Please let me know the web site for the apartment you stayed in. Did you cook your own meals? Is there a place near by where you bought your grocery? Although I don't think we would want to cook when we are there. We rather see all the things we should see.

How did you find your guide to take you around? I think we will take a half-day tour just to get oriented. How long did you stay in Moscow?

The idea of visiting Moscow sounds better each time I read DO NOT miss Moscow.

I checked www.glovs.com and www.lot.com RT Warsaw-St.Ptersburg in June is US $780.00. There have to be less expensive flights. Maybe two separate trips: one to St. Petersburg/Moscow and another to Poland is the answer?

I like an idea of a student guide. How to find one? We had one in Lisbon, Portugal and we liked her a lot.

Marc David:
Thanks for the address. I will check it out

Thanks again and here are two more questions:
1. If you flew from New York area what airlines did you use and where did you transfer?
2. What guide books did you find most useful?
Old Apr 26th, 2001, 07:45 AM
Marc David Miller
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Write to me privately for the address of the apartments in St Petersburg

Aeroflot is probably the cheapest NY-Russia flights.

In Moscow, there is an excursion company called Patriashy Dom. I used them for about 20 different excusions during two trips to Moscow. They are reasonably priced, and I find their guides to be knowledgable, friendly and professional--the best one is Felix Meltser!

You can see their web site at


or contact them via e-mail at

[email protected]

You can hire one of their guides
yourself, probably for about $10-20/hour.

I found the best guide to Moscow to be Time Out, and there is a small section on St Petersburg. Also, the Eyewitness Guides to Moscow and to St Petersburg are well-written and thorough enough for a short visit.
Old Apr 26th, 2001, 01:00 PM
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Have tickets, invitation and hotel reservation to St. Petersburg. Problem is with obtaining a visa. Is this the usual bureaucracy or do the Russians really don't want me? Paranoids are right sometime.
Old Apr 26th, 2001, 04:22 PM
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Paul-We just received our visas yesterday for our upcoming trip. We used Express Visa Service (www.expressvisa.com), although we used snail mail rather than their on-line service to apply. It took 3 weeks to the day they received our application to the time the completed ones were returned. Cost was $110/ea for a single entry, tourist visa, although prices vary depending on how much time you give yourself between your trip and when you need your visa. There are numerous other services out there, and you can also save $ by not using a service, but for the peace of mind of having it done for us, it was worth the cost.

Thanks to all who have posted-your suggestions on what to see/do/not miss will be very helpful in planning our trip. Can already tell that we won't have nearly enough time to see everything we want to.

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